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Ice Dragon Pent adds new category: Skill-Based Arts

Are you one of those artisans who loves creating for the sake of the process, not the product? Who loves to learn to use something the period way, instead of creating for display? I do admit that the use of bone ice skates for the first time sure could be seen as a Performance Piece – especially when done so in period garb during regular opening hours on a university skating rink! But, generally speaking, the skill-based arts are mostly shared as live demonstrations in how-to classes, or, if you’re in the right place at the right time, when you witness an artisan use their skill at an event you happen to be at.

Until recently, those working on the practical outdoor skills did so at their leisure, and mostly by themselves. The popularity of the recent Viking Hikes, a group started by Sir Stefan, and Garb Saunters, the slower paced, multi-cultural version by the Foresters Guild, raised more awareness and interest in the learning and sharing of outdoors and survival skills. The outdoor nature of these hikes and saunters was great timing during the years of the Plague, especially with so many hikers able to share really cool stuff virtually!

The Dolly Sods saunter by the Æthelmearc Foresters Guild on a cold and dreary day. Brion Bearclaw Woods and ranking chapter member Rikardr, the Warden of Æthelmearc, are wearing full woolen outfits and backpacks. Photo from Rick Blizard’s FB feed.

In a similar vein, a number of years ago, the East Kingdom formed the Royal Foresters, based on the medieval foresters that protected the forests of medieval England from outlaws and poachers. Master Morien MacBain, Forester, Deputy Warden of Æthelmearc, and one of several founding members of the Æthelmearc chapter, explains the Foresters Guild exists to foster period wilderness, woodland, and travel skills and adventures both at SCA events and outside the usual event structure. What makes it unique is an emphasis on period travel on foot and by small boats, as well as fire making, constructing shelters, foraging for food, hunting, fishing, and the construction of gear to assist in all these endeavors.

With the new Guild in mind, the Ice Dragon Pentathlon added a new category: the Skill-Based Arts. This category is for Skills that are, in and of themselves, arts, but are not performance pieces. Videos are encouraged for Skills that do not lend themselves to entry in person.

I have not been able to go on a walk-about – yet. My partner and kid Hrolfr and Simon have, and Simon talked about the experience for months! But, luckily, I, and many others with me, were able to enjoy vicariously through the enticing posts of Mistress Álfrún ketta.

In her own words: “I first heard about the Foresters’ Guild when Master Morien MacBain came out to our home in the woods to explore possible places to build a primitive shelter. While I enjoyed trekking around the property in garb, I had a misunderstanding about the Guild itself at the time. What I had seen to that point were the folks who were interested in “survival” style work, long hikes, sleeping in make-do shelters and the like and I knew that was not for me.

Two trapped crayfish (top left and right of leaf) in Álfrún’s very functional wicker trap! To read further check her blog post here.

Once I got further involved, however, I realized that there is so much one can do under the umbrella of the Guild. I personally have explored building a primitive trap for crawdads. I am working on building out an accurate kit for my chosen Forester persona (14th Century English, though one is not limited to medieval Europe at all for this). My major work though surrounds plants, and learning what in this region would also have been accessible in period, and what did they do with these items then. The end result is planned an apothecary kit and (digital) herbal based on period research. I plan to gather or grow the bulk of the items in this kit.

What I am enjoying the most as a member of the Guild is that this has driven me outdoors more often. Learning more about the flora and fauna surrounding me has given new focus to my SCA A&S and researching period usage for the plants is beyond fascinating. This also ties back into an older interest of mine of herbal medicines (though I am deliberately keeping all modern medicinal information out of my SCA apothecary work). Another thing to enjoy? The community! I am seeing folks in three Kingdoms (Æthelmearc, East and Atlantia) sharing their interesting projects, many of which are also sources of inspiration for things I want to eventually try myself!”

Something I did not realize at first is that the Foresters Guild has ranks, although, as Forester Master Morien emphasizes, they are not strict about them. He feels that “the kind of person you are and your skills and attitude count for far more than rank! It’s more like Boy Scout ranks than military ones, in that regard. There are Novices, Underforesters, Foresters, and Master Foresters. Advancement has to do with experience, firemaking skills, putting together a certain level of gear and soft kit, and research!”

What I find inspirational – and quite motivating – is that “[t]here are also special Orders of Merit within the Guild, which people may choose to apply for if they like. Each one has their own specific Trials, so it’s a bit like the Order of the Arrow in Scouting. The Orders of Merit in the Guild are: Regarders or “Fighting Foresters,” who practice a Scadian martial art of some type as part of their Forester pursuits. Next are Woodwards, who specialize in Service as well as Arts and Sciences. Then there are Rangers, who focus on wilderness survival and travel skills and adventures.”

Brion Bearclaw and Rikardr on their four-day back-packing trip through the Dolly Sods Wilderness in historical Viking clothing with all-historical Viking camping equipment. For more pictures, check Rick Blizard’s FB Photos!

Are you now, like me, really intrigued?
And want to know even more?!

Visit the Æthelmearc Forester Program (Unofficial) Facebook page as well as the East Kingdom Guild FAQ page.

Do keep in mind: if you’d like to actively participate, joining the Facebook Group is not enough: one has to formally apply for Guild membership. The next event to have the Forestry Guild present will be Æthelmearc War Practice, in May, so do not wait too long to get your application in!

And if you just can not wait to start? Or already have skills you would love to share already? Take a hike, with a friend, and a camera, and enter the Skill-Based category at the Ice Dragon Pentathlon. We can not wait to see what hidden skills are awaiting us in our Fair and Sylvan Kingdom!

In case you did not realize, guess what “sylvan” refers to – it’s like this Guild is made for us!

yours in service,